Rhys Saunders Sep. 20, 2013, 2:44pm

Luxury leather products company Coach Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit accusing members of an alleged foreign counterfeiting ring of selling fake goods online to Illinois residents.

Coach does not specifically name any of the defendants in the suit, which only refers to them as “the partnerships and unincorporated associations” identified in a separate document, the contents of which were filed under seal.

The company asserts that several people or organizations working in concert have created similar websites that use its trademark and images without permission.

The goods on these sites are often advertised as “replica” or “fake” Coach products, which the suit states are then shipped in small quantities through international mail to minimize detection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Coach claims the counterfeiters used illegal search engine optimization tactics to increase their websites’ rank.

“Tactics used by Defendants to conceal their identities and the full scope of their counterfeiting operation make it virtually impossible for Coach to learn the defendants’ true identities and the exact interworking of their massive counterfeit network,” Coach contends.

In the suit that was filed Sept. 16, the company asks Chicago’s federal court to grant it all profits from the sale of the counterfeit goods and that “the amount of damages for infringement of the Coach trademarks be increased by a sum not exceeding three times the amount thereof as provided by law.”

Alternately, Coach seeks $2 million for each illicit use of its trademark and $100,000 per domain name on the fake Coach websites.

Coach's suit includes counts for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and violating the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

It also seeks injunctive relief under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which provides a cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name that is similar to or dilutive of a trademark.

Coach states in its suit that it has not identified how many knockoff products have been sold nor the number of fake websites involved in the alleged fraudulent commerce.

The company, however, asserts that it believes the incidents are part of a counterfeit ring based in China or other foreign countries.

“The Defendant Internet Stores also include other notable common features, including use of the same domain  name registration patterns, unique shopping cart platforms, accepted payment methods, check-out methods, meta data, domain redirection, lack of contact information, identically or similarly priced items and volume sales discounts, the same incorrect grammar and misspellings, similar hosting services, and the use of the same text and copyright-protected images copied from Coach’s coach.com website,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also asks the court to force anyone involved in the counterfeit ring to stop selling fake products, and that online marketplaces, social media platforms and web hosts disable accounts and cease providing service to the counterfeiters.

Coach is represented by Kevin W. Guynn, Amy C. Ziegler and Justin R. Gaudio of the Greer, Burns & Crain Ltd., in Chicago.

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